New Zealand women's rugby team subject to 'body shaming' and 'favouritism'

Members of the New Zealand women’s rugby team had reported culturally insensitive comments and alleged “favouritism”, “ghosting” and “body shaming” from coaches.

A cultural review of the Black Ferns was commissioned by New Zealand Rugby following an Instagram post by hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate in December 2021.

In the post, Te Kura said she was reduced to a “mental breakdown” on the 2021 Northern Tour, during which New Zealand lost twice to both England and France.

Te Kura claimed her mental health struggles were due to alleged comments from head coach Glenn Moore.

The comments allegedly included that she had been selected but “didn’t deserve to be in the team”, that the head coach was “embarrassed” for her and that she was “picked only to play the guitar”.

The resulting review, which interviewed more than 50 current and former players, managers and coaches, found Te Kura’s concerns “were not isolated”.

This was particularly the case among Maori or Pasifika players, who make up approximately 50 percent and 25 percent of the team respectively.

The players had either experienced “favouritism”, “ghosting”, or “cultural insensitivities” themselves, or had witnessed it, and feared complaining about this behaviour in case it adversely affected selection chances.

Concerns were also raised about body shaming and returning to play following pregnancy or injury, which was described as a “very grey area”.

New Zealand Rugby said it accepted the key themes and 26 recommendations made by the review panel.

“No-one should be in any doubt about our commitment to the progression of women’s rugby in this country,” New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson said.

“This report highlights that we haven’t got everything right and we apologise for not having provided all the tools for our people to succeed.”

Several changes were already implemented following the Northern Tour, including the introduction of 29 professional contracts.

Wayne Smith also joined as technical coach to assist Moore, who will remain as the head coach.

In a statement, Moore pledged to take on board the learnings from the review, which can be read in full here.

“My goal as Black Ferns coach is to ensure the team excel both on and off the field,” he said. “I am driven to maximise our performance in all aspects of the game and achieve a high standard of excellence.

“Participating in high-performance sport, whether as a coach, player, or part of the management team, can present unique challenges and the findings of the Black Ferns cultural and environmental review released today have highlighted a number of those challenges.”

New Zealand, five-time world champions, will host this year’s Rugby World Cup from October 8th to November 12th.

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